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Knute Rockne: All American (1940)


Greatest Films (www.filmsite.org and www.greatestfilms.org)
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Knute Rockne: All American (1940) is the inspirational film biography of the famous and prominent Notre Dame football coach, Knute 'Rock' Rockne (Pat O'Brien). The immortalized coach is brought to life in this excellent, episodic film characterization directed by Lloyd Bacon - it portrays his sportsmanship, emphasis on teamwork, his determination to win, and his wholesome influence on the many young men who played on his squads.

An original screenplay by Robert Buckner was based upon the private papers of Mrs. Rockne and the University of Notre Dame. As a tribute to some of Rockne's colleagues, four of his contemporaries (including grid coaches and friends) appear briefly in one sequence: Howard Jones, Glenn 'Pop' Warner, Alonzo Stagg, and William 'Bill' Spaulding. The sports film is peppered with actual newsreel clips of actual games (mostly between traditional rivals Army and Notre Dame).

The film is best known for its famous line of dialogue, spoken by Rockne's most famous player, George Gipp (Ronald Reagan), a real-life football star who died young of pneumonia and provided an inspiring anecdote to his coach. Gipp tells his coach:

Some day, when things are tough, maybe you can ask the boys to go in there and win just one for the Gipper.

Later in a memorable scene (duplicating what actually happened at half-time in a 1928 Army game), the team coach quotes his player in a pep talk to his losing football team at half-time:

Well, boys, I haven't a thing to say. Played a great game -- all of you. Great game. I guess we just can't expect to win ‘em all. I'm going to tell you something I've kept to myself for years. None of you ever knew George Gipp. He was long before your time, but you all know what a tradition he is at Notre Dame. And the last thing he said to me, 'Rock,' he said, 'sometime when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys, tell 'em to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock,' he said, 'but I'll know about it, and I'll be happy.'

[In later years, Reagan melded together his filmatic and political careers by adopting the slogan "Win this one for the Gipper" for political purposes.]